Why pray silently?
There is strong advocacy for audible prayer within many churches. There are a number of good reasons for this. Usually, a child learns to pray through the example of audible prayer; some pastors encourage praying aloud to ensure alertness and active participation; and, there is a spirit of unity that comes, when we lift our voices together in prayer.
Christ Jesus says when we pray, we must ‘enter into the closet,’ shut the door, pray to the Father in secret, and the Father, who sees in secret shall reward openly. He specifically says when we pray; we must not be like the heathen, who ‘think they shall be heard for their much speaking.’ He adds, ‘After this manner therefore pray ye.’ Then he gave the Lord’s Prayer, (Matthew 6:6-13). While Jesus, at that juncture, does not instruct that we should pray the Lord’s Prayer together, over the centuries, Christians have commonly prayed it aloud together.
Many also pray it when alone. Does this suggest that praying aloud is better than praying silently? Does it suggest that silent prayer is wrong, or ineffective, or worse still, praying amiss? It does not.
This Bible passage shows what Jesus thought of silent prayer. It also reveals what Jesus says God thinks of it – that silent prayer will bring practical, obvious rewards.Another important necessity of silent prayer is seen in Paul’s injunction in I Thess. 5:17 to pray without ceasing. This can only be achieved through silent prayer. Unceasing prayer involves watching or trying every thought to see if it is from God – I John 4:1; striving to follow every aspect of Christ Jesus’ example, instead of selectively following Him. It is loving God supremely and loving our neighbour as ourselves. Unceasing prayer is living moment by moment in the way Jesus taught, as mapped out by God.
Referring to silent prayer, Church founder, Christian healer and author, Mary Baker Eddy writes in her primary work on spiritual healing, Science and Health with key to the Scriptures, that unspoken desires or thoughts are not unknown to God. She says we can trust God with these silent desires or prayers, so that He can mould and exalt them before they take form in words and deeds.
As Christians, we may admit honestly, that sometimes, audible prayer goes beyond our convictions, especially when there is an audience. The temptation for oratorical excellence, to be seen of men, to justify self, or to gain the ear of an already all-knowing, ever attentive God, may clothe religion in human forms and miss the mark of individual regeneration, renewal and transformation.
The true test of prayer, be it audible or silent, is much more than a temporary elevation of thought, however solemn or impressive that is. Rather, the true test of prayer is the honest desire for growth in grace, humble listening for God’s direction, practical obedience in following Jesus’ example, gratitude for God’s goodness and so on. Eddy says the efficacy of silent prayer is best expressed in thought and in daily living [ibid]. It is practical, rewarding and Christian.Moji George, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Nigeria West
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